Renters Beware: Family left homeless after paying fake landlord

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(KTVI)-- A St. Louis woman rents an apartment only to find out two months later the building is condemned.  A city official says it happens more often than you think.   Just imagine you've taken all the cash you have to move only to find out the man who has your money, doesn't own the property.  It`s located on California in south St. Louis.

JaTina Harrison found it online.  She talked to the man she thought was the owner late February.  They agreed she'd move in the first of March according to JaTina.  "I gave  him a security deposit of $725 and he prorated my rent for March because the day I was supposed to move in I didn`t  move in."

The prorated rent was $585.  Plumbing issues delayed the move.  Two weeks later she discovers the exposed pipes and no heat.   "When I tried  to turn on the heater, it wouldn`t come on.  When I went downstairs, that was the day he came in to install the furnace and he encountered another plumbing problem. "

It gets worse.  She gets a notice from the St. Louis Building Division.  Frank Oswald head of the Building Division explains.   "The city does require that a certificate of inspection or an occupancy permit  is issued prior to somebody moving in," he said.

The last inspection for occupancy on record is 2012.  Property taxes for 2012 and 2013 have not been paid.  The city lists the owners as Family First NV LLC with an office in Creve Couer.  It's vacant.  There's a Family First NV LLC in Texas with a disconnected number.  I found it listed in Nevada but a man tells me he sold the company in 2008. Back to St. Louis.  The condemnation is based on a couple of things, the missing occupancy permit, repairs done without permits and the ownership question.  It`s a regular occurrence according to Frank Oswald.   "Sometimes the tenant becomes an innocent victim in these situations because they either assume the owner has obtained the occupancy permit or sometimes the owners even tell them they`ve obtained the occupancy permit and they have not."

I went to three different addresses looking for the man who took Jatina's money.  When I reached him by phone, he told me he owned the property but never produced any documents to prove it.   Since we did the interview Jatina moved.

"It`s very stressful, because while I`m at work I`m wondering and praying that when I come home that I can get into the home."

To avoid problems when renting, be sure the residence has a valid occupancy permit.  You should also check the recorder of deeds website to determine ownership of the property.   Call us if with your consumer concerns.  The toll free number is 800 782-2222.  The line is open Mon. through Thur. between 11am and 1pm.

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